Last August (2015), American River Conservancy secured the purchase of 10,000 acres adjoining Granite Chief Wilderness. The land was previously owned by a timber investment firm. This acquisition enables the U.S. Forest Service to complete its national trail designation for the Western States Trail, and enables the partnership of the American River Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy to restore and research what was the largest piece of unprotected land along the Sierra Crest south of Donner Summit. Once restored, ARC intends to dedicate 3,000 acres to the Granite Chief Wilderness.
Granite Chief was designated as a Wilderness in 1984, and includes 20 miles of trout streams, 1200 acres of meadows, old growth forests, recreational trails i.e. the Tevis Cup & Western States Trails and the Pacific Crest Trail, and provides access to the headwaters of the North and Middle Fork of the American River.
Restoration work for the recent acquisition will include decommissioning logging trails and repair of streams and meadows. The watershed will serve as a laboratory for scientists to study forest restoration in hopes it will reduce catastrophic fires, increase water supply, improve wildlife habitat and reduce the impact of droughts.
The American River Conservancy recently hosted a backpacking trip along the Granite Chief Trail, departing from the Talbot Trailhead near French Meadows. And will return early August for another overnight trip departing from Hell Hole Reservoir. The Granite Chief Wilderness provides us a wonderful alternative for the heavily used Desolation Wilderness. At this time, no permits are required for overnight stay.